A ‘no-brainer’ for Blackman to play under Jordi Cruyff in Israel

MANCUNIAN Nick Blackman's loan spell from Derby County to Maccabi Tel Aviv has ended, with six league goals in 14 appearances.

He told Sky Sports: “I was looking at going out and playing as many games as possible this season, so it became a no-brainer for me to go and play under someone of Jordi Cruyff’s stature.

“Without doubt it’s the biggest club in Israel, so it’s been fantastic to play in such a pressured environment.

“It’s been a big learning curve for me in how to deal with that pressure but it’s something I’ve embraced and I’ve really enjoyed.”

The former Manchester King David School pupil cited his Jewish heritage as another reason why the move made sense.

His maternal grandfather was an Auschwitz survivor and his grandmother converted to the religion when she was adopted by a Jewish family after the war.

The pair found their way to Manchester, where Blackman was later born to a Jewish mother and a Christian father from Barbados.

He said: “I wouldn’t say being Jewish was a factor in the decision to come out here, but it was always going to be a connection.

“I played in the Maccabiah Games when I was 15.

“I don’t remember too much of it, but there was obviously a connection there. It has made things even smoother, if that was possible.”

Blackman posted a message on Facebook on Wednesday, where he admitted he didn’t know what his future held, “but I do know one day I will wear the famous blue & yellow again . Thank you for everything NB11 #yallamaccabi “.

He added that Cruyff had “been their (sic for me through tears of joy & pain & between him and his staff they have showed incredible loyalty & opened my eyes to a new way of playing the game. I know which ever direction you decide to go in next you will be a success 100%”.

Former Serbian international Vladimir Ivic has been named as Maccabi Tel Aviv’s new manager.

The 41-year-old will replace Cruyff, who guided the club to a second place finish following Monday’s 2-0 win against Bnei Yehuda.

Ivic is set to make ex-Swansea City and Beitar Jerusalem striker Itay Shechter his first signing.

Meanwhile, Hapoel Hadera are back in the Israel Premier League — for the first time in nearly 40 years. It means that the club, which plays in the tiny 3,000-capacity Afula Illit Stadium, gained two successive promotions under the guidance of manager Niso Avitan.

Hapoel Tel Aviv are back in the top flight after one season in the second tier.

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